Substance Abuse

The majority of people in prison and jail have a substance use disorder. Despite the promise demonstrated by some treatment programs for people who are incarcerated, just a fraction of the people who need services for substance abuse receive it. Connecting people incarcerated to treatment programs proven to be effective, prioritizing resources for those nearing release, and encouraging community-based aftercare will ensure better outcomes for people released from prisons and jails, and the communities to which they return.

Substance Abuse FAQs

Providing answers on relevant topics concerning Mental Health, Health and Substance Abuse topics.

Recent Posts

Center for Court Innovation

Q&A with Julian Adler of the Red Hook Community Justice Center

As the nation’s first multijurisdictional community court, the Red Hook Community Justice Center in Brooklyn has served as a neighborhood hub for clinical services, community service, youth programs, and other social supports since its founding in 2000.


DC Courts Are Connecting Individuals with On-Site Treatment

Having an urgent care clinic located only feet away from courtrooms allows judges and court staff to guarantee that people have access to services. For many defendants, this may be the first contact they’ve had with a mental health professional. Moreover, for some, this treatment may well reduce the likelihood that they will be arrested in the future.

U.S. Capitol

Congress Funds Key Criminal Justice Programs

Congress funded three key programs championed by the Council of State Governments Justice Center as part of an appropriations bill that provided $26.7 billion to support U.S. Department of Justice programs.


Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

Call for Applicants for Research on At-Risk Girls

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is now accepting proposals for original research and/or secondary analysis of existing data on girls who are at-risk and are involved with the justice system.


Bill Allocates $102M in Funding for Key Justice Programs (Updated: May 20)

The House Appropriations Subcommittee approved a $51.4 billion spending bill that would fund three key programs championed by the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center: the Second Chance Act (SCA), the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (MIOTCRA), and the Justice Reinvestment Initiative.



Risk Need Responsivity 101: A Primer for SCA and JMHCP Grant Recipients

This webinar provides foundational knowledge on RNR as well as guidance on understanding and implementing risk assessment tools as a way to direct resources and support recidivism-reduction strategies for criminal justice and social service agencies, practitioners, and policymakers.


Improving Outcomes for Court-Involved Youth with Co-Occurring Disorders

This webinar provides an overview of three briefs that were recently published by National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges on the treatment of co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders among youth.


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Solutions: American Leaders Speak Out on Criminal Justice

This publication from the Brennan Center for Justice is a collection of essays on mass incarceration from prominent figures and experts from across the political spectrum. A bipartisan collaboration, the essays reflect a political shift from the punitive policies of the 1980s and 1990s.

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

Journal of Juvenile Justice

This issue of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Journal of Juvenile Justice features articles on behavioral health therapy for young women in the juvenile justice system; juvenile justice in rural areas; the impact of child protective services on reoffending; reducing “social distance” between minority youth and law enforcement; recommendations on how to help youth get out of gangs; and addressing sex education with youth who are involved in the juvenile justice system.


Ohio Juvenile Justice Alliance Fact Sheet Series

These fact sheets from the Ohio Juvenile Justice Alliance provide a comprehensive overview of the juvenile justice system in Ohio, with information separated into two broad categories: 1) points of youth contact with the juvenile justice system, and 2) special populations and issues, such as the school-to-prison pipeline, girls, minority youth, youth with behavioral health needs, and LGBTI youth.

Recent headlines

Mental Illness Is No Crime

A new initiative, “Stepping Up,” unites state and local governments and the American Psychiatric Foundation to promote research-based practices to tackle our overreliance on jail as mental health treatment, such as in-jail counseling programs that reduce the chances of repeat offenders.

Jails Are No Substitute for a Mental Health System

Using our criminal justice system as a substitute for a fully functioning mental health system doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense for law enforcement officers, who often put their lives at risk when they are called upon to intervene in a mental health crisis. It doesn’t make sense for courts, which are inundated with cases involving people with mental illness. It doesn’t make sense for people who have mental health conditions, who often would benefit more from treatment and intensive supervision.

One Town is Going to Try Not Arresting Heroin Users

Police Chief Lenny Campanello Gloucester, Massachusetts, may change how we handle drug addiction. Fed up with the opiate epidemic spreading through Gloucester, he posted a message on May 4 on department’s Facebook page, vowing the department will not charge drug users, but will connect them to treatment instead.

Program to Release Non-Violent Offenders Saves Jail Money

The Court Services program has been in effect since the 1960s, but now it is saving the jail thousands of dollars a month. Court Services workers review case files daily and assist inmates on how to make their bond or call relatives. Those that have no resources, could be released to special programs, like Women in Recovery, programs that help rehabilitate those with addiction problems.

Skyrocketing Prison Costs Have States Targeting Recidivism, Sentencing Practices

It is not often that the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center find common cause with conservative Republicans in Alabama. But on Tuesday, both sides will celebrate when Gov. Robert Bentley (R) signs legislation that will substantially cut the number of prisoners in state custody.

New Efforts To Keep The Mentally Ill Out Of Jail

Earlier this month, a coalition including the Council of State Governments Justice Center, the American Psychiatric Foundation and the National Association of Counties kicked off a national campaign to encourage local jurisdictions to collect data on the jailed mentally ill and adopt strategies to avoid incarceration.

Treating Mentally Ill Rather than Jailing Them Could Save Baton Rouge Taxpayers $55M Over a Decade, Analysis Says

A comprehensive jail diversion program designed to treat those with mental illness and substance abuse problems rather than incarcerate them would save East Baton Rouge taxpayers an estimated $3 million in its first year and nearly $55 million over 10 years. That’s according to a new economic analysis commissioned by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, which is spearheading an effort to decriminalize mental illness in the community.

Sacramento County: Break Away Bike Program

When it comes to innovative programs, the creative wheels are definitely turning in the Sacramento County Probation Department. As part of the county’s Adult Drug Court program, clients with transportation issues can earn donated bicycles. This incentive has improved attendance while helping clients get back on their feet.
Having transportation – even of the two-wheeled variety – allows clients to regularly attend Drug Court programs and other mandatory courses, get to their jobs on time and just participate in other aspects of everyday life we often take for granted.